With the Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashanah) quickly approaching, the Jewish nation is in a process of self-reflection, assessing the past year’s actions and creating the coming year’s goals. But for Israel’s staggering 1.7 million impoverished Israelis, figuring out how to get their next meal and keep a roof over their heads is a goal in itself.
“At Meir Panim, we feed daily hundreds of hungry people including the elderly, children and homebound,” shared Goldie Sternbuch, Director of Overseas Relations for Meir Panim, Israel’s premier social and food services organization. “The Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Sukkot holidays all falling at this time of year places a tremendous additional strain on poor Israelis.”
To help ease this burden, in addition to the year-round help Meir Panim provides to those in need, the organization distributes 3,000 grocery shopping cards before Rosh Hashanah. These vouchers, which resemble debit cards, are given to needy individuals and families so that they may shop at major Israeli supermarket chains with dignity.
In addition, Meir Panim is also distributing 35,000 holiday food packages.
“Meir Panim not only strives to help those in need through our wide range of social programs, we also do all that we can to provide assistance in a dignified and quiet way,” continued Sternbuch. “For example, with 186,700 elderly citizens living in Israel without family or relatives to provide care, Meir Panim steps in to become their support system.”
Meir Panim’s shopping cards are programmed to track purchases and block patrons from buying alcohol or cigarettes. However, their use allows recipients flexibility to customize their purchases based on their individual needs.
Rivka Aburus (pseudonym), a single mother of five, explained that this shopping card voucher gives a little peace of mind before the holidays. “Just providing basic food for my family all year round is difficult. During the holidays it is impossible without this extra help,” she said.
In addition to food cards, Meir Panim restaurant-style soup kitchens regularly distribute fresh fruits and vegetables to needy families so that they can free up money for other basic necessities.
“I have witnessed first-hand how Meir Panim fights poverty and hunger in Israel on a daily basis. I am awestruck, both from the level of need and the great work that Meir Panim does to fill those needs,” said Michael Fromm, Chairman of Meir Panim.
Meir Panim annually serves approximately 350,000 meals out of their restaurant-style soup kitchens and provides 190,000 meals-on-wheels for the elderly and homebound. In addition, they deliver lunches to several schools in impoverished neighborhoods and host after-school programs and summer camps for needy children with the hope that this help will reap a better future for the recipients.
“As we pray on Rosh Hashanah for our personal and worldwide good fortune, remembering Israel’s neediest is a crucial part of the formula,” noted Sternbuch. “Meir Panim and its recipients count on the generous contributions of donors to help make the upcoming New Year sweet, enjoyable, and hope-filled for all.”